Friday, January 27

City Circle: Why Islam needs a feminist movement Click for more info

Why Islam needs a feminist movement, Professor Tariq Ramadan

Resuming CC's regular weekly lectures after the end of year break (albeit unusually on a Thursday this week), Tariq Ramadan talked about how bad women have it and how Islam needs to change in order to restore their rights and well being. Not that I'm trying to trivialise the issue, but for most there (the biggest ever turnout for a CC as far as I'm aware and further the majority, women) it was all pretty obvious. Or at least, it should have been - only some men, when asked, actually agreed that an effort was required to fix some things. Hmm.

So yes, I guess at times we need a good eloquent speaker to remind us and that's exactly what Ramadan did last night. In brief, he told us that we needed to be more vocal about the crime and discrimination demonstrated toward women under than name of Islam. He calls this vocalisation "Islamic Feminism". He also mentioned the need to be self critical and to see how some of our Islamic principles are based on either a literal or cultural interpretation of the Quran (although note that he didn't say that these were inherently bad things).

What he didn't talk about was the issue of control and limits of reformation. Whether it's the rights of women or a more general Islam we're reforming, when should we stop? Is it when all Muslims become happy? When blood is no longer spilled? When women stop complaining? All of these will take time (if ever in the last case) to eradicate, and even then will not be a guarantee of us being on the right path.

Every week I hear of something new under the name of Islam, whether it's Muslims calling themselves gay, or Amina Wadud leading a mixed congregation. Tomorrow it could be the first Muslim brewery, or a trend for Muslim women to become lingerie models. Now, I'm sure everyone has their own opinion on whether these things are halal or haram, right or wrong, but whatever we decide they are is not the point here. What is is that they are all, as far as I'm aware, unprecedented.

Perhaps Islam is continually meant to evolve in this way, I don't know. And I didn't get to ask, the chair instead choosing more inane questions to be put forward to Ramadan. And no, I ain't hating. Much. But is there really a need to ask Ramadan (or anyone) whether they think Mukhtar Mai received justice or if a rape victim should have to marry her rapist? And then you have the questions that no one else understands but the one putting them forward, perhaps in an attempt to show how smart they are. Someone yesterday even referred to Ramadan's grandfather. Impressive. Anyway, rant over.

This was my first Ramadan lecture and very much enjoyed it was. I think it's the first of a series of lectures by Ramadan at The CC, so if you missed it there may be another chance to attend. I'm not sure whether he'll be continuing with the same topic or moving on to another, but I'd still recommend checking him out anyway.


  1. the lecture sounded quite interesting..though im always alittle weary of anything being deemed or referred to as 'islamic reform'.

  2. oo #and i have more profile views than you..

  3. I never got a chance to attend..

    Sounds like an interesting talk though.

    I once saw Tariq Ramadan (TR) on a debate about Islamic Feminism, which ensued after Ziauddin Sardar’s (ZS) controversial documentary, entitled “Battle for Islam”
    I found that all participants of the debate were trying very hard to appear liberal when confronted with, what many practitioners of Islam regard as, simple questions.
    An example of ZS’s liberalistic Islam was the portrayal of an “Islamic” Turkish super model. The documentary showed her making du’a before posing nude for a cameramen. Zeinab Badawi, the chair of the debate, asked the participants “Can the occupation of that Super Model be accepted in Islam”? “Is not Hijaab an obligation in Islam?” In my opinion, if one claims to be or is known to be a leading Islamic Thinker one should be able to answer these questions very clearly. In my opinion, when it came to the crunch, TR did not give a pure answer as he said “What is most important in Islam, is that a women should feel free and liberated to do what she wants”.
    I don’t at all disagree with that answer, but surely it should have been extended to say something like: “Islam does oblige a women to observe modesty, but ofcourse, she should not be forced to appear modest in her appearance, but should arrive at the wisdom behind such modesty”. To me (and I could be completely wrong) It just appeared that he was trying to “get in” amongst the so called western secular intellectual elite.
    Some might call my observation harsh, which is fair enough. But time and time again I see “Islamic Intellectuals” trying to take a lead on an issue, but when it comes to the crunch, they compromise their ideals to look good in front of others.
    My father (a very liberal man by western standards!) was also watching the debate. He remarked: “You know, when you don’t have a power behind you, or when you are slaves to another nation, you always think twice about what you say because you always want to keep your master happy. The day we stop thinking like that, is the day we will rise up as one Ummah and take our destiny into our hands, never being afraid of speaking the truth.”